The night was warm, bathing the restless girl in unhappiness. Long gone was the peace brought by the chill of the Southern Water Tribe, replaced by a sticky, irritating heat.
She lay on her side, tangled in the bed-sheets restlessly. Her feet were kicked free of the linen, and her arms were raised above her head. She tried to flip onto her stomach, and managed to get herself further ensnared in the blankets. This proved too much of a distraction for sleep to return to her, and she muttered unintelliable curses under her breath. With an exasperated sigh, she scrambled out of the mess of sheets to open her window. The moon shone large and bright in the early morning sky, and the woman sighed gently.
It had been a few days since Zuko had been crowned Fire Lord. In the days that had followed, things were stiff and uneventful. Aang had saved the world by defeating Fire Lord Ozai, the corrupt man who had almost destroyed everything, and thus, everyone basically worshipped the bald monk. She opened her window, letting out a breath as the cool air swept over her.
The girl padded to the mirror in bare feet, looking into it to see her indigo eyes staring back at her. She was Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, and their only master Waterbender.
Katara gently swept her hair back into its normal braid. "This heat is terrible." She grumbled, crawling back between the red sheets. Much to her relief, the cool air wafted through the room, allowing the girl to drift into a dreamless sleep. Morning would come soon, which would bring its own set of surprises.
Morning did come soon, much to Katara's distaste. Rising stiffly, she harumphed at the sea of red that surrounded her.
"Such an irritating color." She complained. A flash of sudden light drew her attention to her window, and she peered through the curtains to see what the commotion was. Outside stood the newly crowned Fire Lord, Zuko. His black hair flowed in the wind with careful grace, like an expression of the feline movements he so often embraced.
He wore simple training robes, drenched with the sweat from his morning exercise. His golden eyes sparked in the morning sun, lit with the familiar fiery passion accompanying a morning spar.
"Still practicing, Zuko?" A girl sauntered towards him, picking uninterestedly at her nails. Katara wrinkled her nose at the appearance of the older girl.
"Mai!" He called, smiling. His arms slipped easily about her thin, waiflike form. Mai smiled slowly at the embrace. "Morning, Zuko." Her voice was a low, bored drawl. "I see you're still wearing peasant attire." Mai dusted off the shoulder of her own elegant crimson gown, managing to disentangle herself from him with the same movement. Zuko's eyes sharpened with defensiveness. "I hardly enjoy court clothes. These are much more comfortable."
Mai stuck her nose high in the air before turning on her heel to drift away.
Katara closed her window with a giggle, and turned to hunt for clothes. Once she opened the doors to her armoire, she gave a squeak of surprise. It was crammed with dresses, all dripping with fancy embroidery and jewels.
"Gah." She gasped, rifling through the brightly colored, offensive, garments. But as she neared the end of the closet, she noticed a harmless looking purple and blue dress hanging innocently between two orange gowns. It looked simple, and comfortable. She pulled it over her head and adjusted it. Sure enough, it fit like it was made for her.
"Aang probably got it for me." She smiled at the thought, a soft blush kissing her cheeks.
Aang was her best friend. Since the kiss after the battle had ended, however, her thoughts strayed to her "friend" more then they should. She stared at her refection closely, clasping her mothers necklace on. The girl took a moment to perfect her braid, and then exited her room.
After asking a few guards the way to the dining room, the Waterbender began to get the hang of the twisting halls of the palace. When she finally made it to the palace, her eyes swept over the familar goofy surroundings created by her brother and her best friend. She twisted her braid around her wrist, a gentle grin playing about the corners of her lips. The chaos was oddly peaceful to her. It meant everyone was safe... For the moment. Until Sokka started eating things he shouldn't.
"Sokka, that really isn't a good knife..." Katara called, watching her brother saw at his muffin with his boomerang. He grumbled, before grabbing up the weapon with a wicked gleam in his blue eyes.
The muffin was speared on the end, and didn't look like it was budging for quite some time. She stifled a giggle as he tossed it into the air without thinking. Her gaze wandered about the rest of the room, and took a step towards her family.
Aang was playing Pai Sho with Iroh, who had a cup of tea in his hand. Zuko was sitting at the table eating his breakfast, and looking as sulky as usual. She chose to approach the brooding Firebender, skipping towards him. "Is there such a thing as food?" Katara asked, smiling hugely.
As expected, Zuko didn't look up. He un-crossed his arms and pointed over to a large buffet table in the corner. Katara danced towards it, sweeping a plate into her hands and beginning to scope out the food choices.
Filling her plate, she looked up to see Sokka's boomerang spinning towards her. She dodged it, laughing. "Watch where you throw that thing, Sokka!" Katara cried, laughing as she turned her attention back to her food.
Aang looked up at the sound of her laughter and smiled.
"Be back soon, Iroh. Food calls!" Iroh sipped at his tea and nodded.
"...I think he means Katara calls." He chuckled.
"Kataaaaaaaaaara!" Aang shouted, bounding over to hug her.
"Good morning." He laughed, his childish voice bubbling with happiness. Katara smiled at him quietly.
"Morning, Aang." Aang looked down at the plate in her hands and licked his lips. "That looks really good. I'm going to get some of that." His stomach rumbled accordingly, and the monk grinned sheepishly before heading towards the breakfast table. Katara suppressed another smile and went to sit down by Zuko. He was brooding, hunched over his plate even though it was practically licked clean.
"Morning, Zuko." She said cheerfully. He looked up and nodded to her once.
"Is everything okay?" She asked, taking a bite.
"Yeah... I'm just having slight issues with Mai." Katara tilted her head. "What kind of problems?" He shook his head. His golden eyes were sorrowful.
"I'll talk to you later about it." He got up, leaving his plate on the table. Aang sat down next to her, glowing with a . Katara smiled and began to eat. "So how do you like life here?" He asked, watching her. She shrugged noncommitally.
"Too hot and dry. Too much red. But otherwise pretty good." Aang laughed goodnaturedly at her comments. Katara opened her mouth to reply, but was distracted as Sokka let out a loud yell of triumph as he caught his muffin-boomerang.
"MY MUFFIN!" He exclaimed, wrenching the treat off his weapon and stuffing it into his mouth. Aang rolled his eyes.
"My brother." Katara corrected.
"Crazy Katara's brother Sokka."
"I HEAR YOU GUYS, YOU KNOW!" Sokka cried from behind them. The two giggled together. (A/N: he IS a comic relief character...)
Katara later found herself wandering around outside, almost bored. She wasn't allowed to Waterbend, since most of the people here hated Waterbenders. So she looked about the palace gardens, flicking beads of water at the turtle ducks. She sat back with a sigh, rubbing at her eyes with the back of her hand.
"Bored?" Came a voice from behind her. She spun around, and saw Zuko behind her. His shoulders were tensed with odd expectancy, and his golden eyes swept across the garden before resting intensely on her.
"Kind of." She admitted, shifting uncomfortably under his stare. Zuko paused before answering. "Get used to it." He stalked off, and she raised an eyebrow. Not as if she was expecting him to be nice. "Zuko?" She called after him. He half turned, looking over one broad shoulder. "Yeah?" He sounded a little hopeful, and she could have sworn the corner of his mouth lift a little when she called his name.
But it couldn't be. It was the scarred side that faced her- and that side never smiled. So she spoke, shattering the illusion.
"What's up with Mai and you?" Katara asked carefully. Zuko sighed, and the sound was aged with weariness. "We'll talk later." His voice mirrored the exhaustion in his sigh. He then slumped a little and walked off, leaving Katara speechless behind him.